Looking to escape off campus for a while for some food, live music, beer, tea, chess and possibly a nap? There’s only one place in Montreal that can fulfill this impossible combination, and that’s L’Escalier.
Named for its characteristic hidden staircase smack in the middle of the Presse International building, L’Escalier can be easy to miss. Those who manage to find its seemingly mythical entrance will be transported into an equally magical cultural corner of Montreal.
Inside is a sprawl of different rooms. To the right is a café area where eclectic tables and chairs are set under dim, low-hanging lights in front of a stage that is rarely empty during the day. Their website has a schedule of the musicians (or slam poets) who will be performing. To the left is a shamble of well-loved couches and long dining tables, which are good for large groups. Beyond that is a room with
second-hand games, books on a take-one-leave-one basis, hanging ivy and high-backed chairs. By far the best room, though also the most difficult to snag, would be dead centre at the far back, which is strewn with pillows, and wherein shoes are optional.
Orders are made at the bar, which is conveniently at the entrance, and the always-smiling staff will bring your food or drinks to wherever you settle. It’s cash only though and there is no ATM, so take out some green beforehand.
Everything is vegetarian, but do not fret just yet carnivores! L’Escalier does not need meat to satisfy. Prices are very fair for what you get. The sandwich and soup or salad combo is highly recommended, which comes to just under $9, $8 if you show your student card.
There are inventive varieties that range from pesto-feta to veggie pâté, but the best are arguably the goat cheese and apple cheddar. Each has an excellent balance between sweet and salty, and the freshness of cucumber, tomato and alfalfa nicely accompanies the stronger tastes of the cheeses.
It is served on multigrain bread with a tuft of alfalfa, some slices of vegetables drizzled with sticky balsamic vinegar and a choice of soup or salad.
For those looking for a snack there are plenty of options like nachos, salads, samosas, hummus and even some gourmet pizzas for the more hungry. These range between $2.50 and $9, which makes them perfect to share between a couple of friends.
In terms of drinks there is coffee, tea, cocktails, beer, wine and occasionally an interesting homemade juice blend, all ranging between $1.75 to $23.50.
What makes this place special though is the atmosphere itself. There are always travelers and interesting characters waiting to be encountered.
L’Escalier is located on 552 Ste-Catherine St.